The State has received millions of dollars in federal funds to combat the opioid epidemic in South Dakota.

Part of that money is being spent on the Avoid Opioid Campaign for public awareness.
Several people in recovery from opioid addiction are featured in a series of videos. 

One of them is David Brown of Woonsocket. KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke sat down with Brown to find out why he went public with his personal battle.

“I was a high-functioning addict,” David Brown said in an Avoid Opioid SD Video.

These raw videos don’t sugar coat the problem of opioid addiction in South Dakota.

“I lost everything, family, job friends–lived in my truck,” Brown said in Avoid Opioid SD Video

David Brown said after 13 surgeries in 18 years, he got hooked on painkillers.

“It starts out as a necessity for pain. That’s what it’s for. And then in my brain, just a switch flipped,” Brown said.

Brown says he was given no warnings about the potential for addiction and plenty of doctors kept feeding his habit. If one stopped writing him opioid prescriptions, he’d find a new doctor.

“We all know what big pharma is, Pharma is about money. Why not downplay the effects of opioids and how addictive their properties are–downplay that so that they can make more money,” Brown said.

Brown’s habit grew rapidly.

Brown: The amount of drugs I’ve taken is just astronomical; minimum a thousand pills a month and 25 fentanyl patches a month, minimum. My day consisted of waking up and throwing ten pills down, then I’d take five pills every hour; suck on a fentanyl patch all day.

Angela Kennecke: Did you work?

Brown: Everyday; never missed a day.

But Brown’s addiction robbed his life of meaning.

“This is what your life revolves around; it revolves around how many pills you have, how many are going to get you through the day, when you’re going to get your next set. It’s a tiring life,” Brown said.

He tried several times on his own to get off the drugs.

“You might make it a day, maybe two-but that third day comes–you ain’t getting through that. The third day is the worst, and you’ll use because that is the one thing you know will take it all away,” Brown said. 

After 15 years of using, Brown sought treatment at Project Turnabout in Granite Falls, MN and it stuck.

“It took me going to rehab to realize I’m an addict. I have a disease. It’s a disease. You can call me a junkie, but I know different; because God doesn’t make junk,” Brown said.

“That’s why people don’t get help; they live in fear of being judged, Caruso said. 

Trisha Caruso is Brown’s girlfriend. They met when he was nine-months sober. He’s now been clean for two years.

He works really hard every day to stay sober, Caruso said.

Brown:  I was knocking on death’s door, I know I was.

Kennecke: Do you think you should be alive today?

Brown: No, not one bit; not scientifically, not medically–must be some reason I’m here. 

Brown believes that reason is to help others. That’s why he’s taking part in South Dakota’s Avoid Opioid Campaign.

“My goal is to help somebody who is still suffering. But I also want to help normal people–the normies out there–to understand what it’s all about. People tell you, ‘why don’t you stop using?’ ‘Why don’t you stop having cancer?’ It’s the same thing,” Brown said.

Brown says attending NA or AA meetings is key to his recovery.

You can watch other stories like Brown’s on The Avoid Opioid SD website.  It has resources like how to get help.